Head suspended

Date published: 12 January 2010

Mystery surrounds school’s decision

MYSTERY surrounds the shock suspension of Our Lady’s High School head teacher Roger Whitaker.

The council, diocese and chairman of governors are remaining tight-lipped about the decision.

The news comes amid preparations to merge the Royton secondary with St Augustine’s, Werneth, in 2012.

The new Roman Catholic high school in Chadderton will be one of the first projects completed by Oldham’s £266 million Building Schools for the Future (BSF) overhaul.

Governor Tony Larkin confirmed that Mr Whitaker had been spending two or three days a week working on BSF.

His deputy Carol Spillane, acting head when he was not in school, has taken up the post full time in his absence.

Councillor Larkin said he did not know the reason for the suspension. He added: “Unfortunately, I can’t give you any information at all. I was informed last week that the chairman of governors had suspended Mr Whitaker pending an investigation.

“There was not a meeting of the full governing body before hand. I believe the decision would have involved key governors, possibly chairs of committees.

“Obviously, some governors could be fully involved if any kind of disciplinary takes place. They need to be separate from anything going on.”

Mr Whitaker was appointed head in 2003 after 10 years at the helm of Newman School, Carlisle.

Our Lady’s was identified as underachieving by the education watchdog Ofsted in November, 2004. GCSE results were below average, there were concerns about pupils’ progress and several subjects were deemed unsatisfactory.

Two years later, inspectors said that results had improved and the school no longer required significant improvement. Mr Whitaker was also praised for his outstanding leadership.

The school was congratulated by ministers after its 2007 GCSE results were among the most improved in the country. Our Lady’s latest GCSE results will be published in tomorrow’s secondary school league tables.

Mr Whitaker is being represented by the Association of School and College Leaders which was unable to comment.

Chairman of Governors Mike Aston also declined to speak to the Chronicle and Salford Diocese did not respond.

Father Peter McKie, who is a governor, was also in the dark. He said: “It is going to come as a shock to the rest of the governors. I have the highest regard for Mr Whitaker as a man and as a teacher.”